Walking is one of the most basic of human activities. Not only is it a way to get around, it is also the very first thing that strangers use to make decisions about who you are. Martial artist and writer George Leonard says in his book The Way of Aikido that, “with each step you take, you are inscribing your signature in motion.” So what does your moving signature look like? What does it say about you?
As a young student of theatre, one of Peter Brook’s first lessons was in walking. “We had to master the very first exercise in which theatre and life meet; how to walk, being no less and no more than ourselves, just a little more collected, a little more open than usual.”
So start paying attention to your walk today. Notice the length of your strides. Are they long or short? Are you pigeon-toed or do you walk with your feet turned out? Look at the bottoms of your shoes and notice the patterns of wear to see how you place your feet on the ground. Try to notice whether your arms swing easily in opposition to your leg movement or hang motionless at your sides. Does only one arm swing while the other seems clamped to your side? Are your shoulders filled with tension and raised toward your ears? Are your hands clenched in fists, or are your arms and hands like limp noodles that flop as you move? Is your head jutted forward? Do you move as if you’re being pulled forward, held back, or walking through thick gel? Do you generally walk quickly, or do you amble? Do you look at the ground when you walk, or are you looking at the world around you?
Just as your walk communicates a great deal about you, you’re character’s walk tells the audience a great deal about the character. The body reveals, and it is up to you to make sure that what the audience sees when you enter is the physicality you have chosen for the character rather than your own, which, because of lack of awareness or control, you are unable to change or adapt.
Remember your body is not a bi-pod for your head. Your body and the way you move define who you are. So start walking and pay attention to your what you are doing. You will soon discover your movement signature and then you are on the way to adjusting it for a character.